“Reload and Try Again”. A Story From the Pistol Ultra

Brian Johnson (MM8807, DA707, HF7287)-

  • Marathon Distance or Longer 40 (still holding at 40)
  • State 23 (and holding)
  • Pistol Ultra (March 18, 2023)
  • Did Not Finish (DNF) 43 miles complete.

This was my third year of doing this event.

Before the start of the Pistol Ultra in Alcoa, Tenn. on March 18th, I wrote this.

“Since I started ultra marathoning, I have wanted to try doing a 100k (62 miles). There were a lot of setbacks along the way.
2020 was going to be my first try at the Pistol Ultra, then everything shut down the week before the scheduled race day.
2021 would have been when I tried again, but the Pistol Ultra went virtual that year.
I didn’t in 2022 because I was out of shape and not trained correctly after having broken my wrist the year before.
So. Enter 2023.
3 drop bags ready. Gear set. Plans in place.
It’s time to take a shot at it. With any luck, it should take about 18 hours.
It’s time to get down to business.”

I didn’t quite get there.

The planning part I had done pretty well. I figured I would be on the course for at least 18 hours. I knew I would need a couple changes of clothes. I knew I would need a sheltered spot to sit down being self-supported. None of those were an issue.

I even had some good food before the race knowing the next day I would have nothing left in the tank.

The race course is pretty easy. It’s 6 10 mile(ish) loops. 62 miles total.

On race day I set out to try to meet my goal of finishing the 100k. Since this was newer territory for me, I went a bit slower than normal on the first of 6 10 mile loops.

It was a chance to run a bit, wake up, conserve energy, and talk to friends. One of those is Cheerleader Julie, who was on the course for all 32 hours in different costumes cheering on the runners as the came in.

Many people from the Marathon Maniac/Half Fanatic Community

Lap 1 went fine. It was a tad bit brisk at the start. The course was beautiful as always.

Lap 2 is when I ran into the first minor issue that I was able to eventually fix. Body glide wears off. A visit to the aid station, and the problem is solved. it did slow me down.

By the end of lap 2, I did my first wardrobe change, I changed my shoes and socks, and had on just a short sleeve because it was getting warm and I was starting to sweat.

I would later pay for that decision.

By the time I had finished lap 3, it was closer to 6pm. and I was starting to get cold. I had changed clothes again and was getting ready to go back out. Thats when I realized I was a lot colder than i thought.

The temperature all day never broker the high 40’s. By the time I went to start lap 4 i had started shivering pretty badly. I knew I had a problem.

Earlier in lap 3, I discovered one other problem. Ever since I broker my wrist in 2021, The cold weather effects my right arm more than I realize. a simple task from earlier in the day (opening my water) I couldn’t do. When I get cold I lose coordination in my right hand. Its both odd and unsettling.

So, I went to visit the warming tent. I spent a bit of time in there before I went back out again. Once I was warm enough to go out, it was almost 7:30. (nightfall), A change of clothes later, I was ready to start again.

At this point I am more than 30 miles in.

Nightfall on the trail isn’t bad. Its very well let. You don’t need a headlamp.

This was also when i noticed the exhaustion setting in. Not surprising after 12+ hours. I was still moving but I was getting colder and slower. I was also noticing blisters starting to form. I stepped off the trail at one point and felt pain in 2 specific spots instead of my entire foot.

Walking, it was taking me 25 minutes to complete a mile instead of 17-18 minutes. I wasn’t doing well. And I couldn’t walk a starlight line to save my life.

I did finish lap 4 and was just spent. It was almost 12:30am at this point. After talking to cheerleader Julie for a couple of minutes, she talked me out of dropping then and recommended I go rest. So I did, in my car for the next 2 hours.

Car camping in an SUV is a wonderful thing.

I woke up 2 hours later. Cold. Miserable. and done. It was also 19 hours into a 32 hour event. I went to the race director and asked to drop. After a few questions, they agreed. I did get a nice souvenir for my efforts (a little less than 44 miles).

A funny little bumper sticker.

I did notice as I dropped that there quite a few very experienced people that had dropped (DNF) over the course of the day also. The weather (and injuries) was getting to quite a few people.

I went back over to my car, crawled in and went back to sleep. I was just tired. I slept until 7am.

In the morning I realized I had one other problem. Sunburn. The overnight temperature had dropped into the high 20’s. I would not have been doing myself any favors.

Food report. Good as always. Never an issue.

Overall, I enjoyed my time at the Pistol Ultra. The race is definitely worth doing, especially if you are looking for a non-trail ultra distance with a generous cutoff.

Things I learned about me

  • The cold has more of an effect on my than I am used to
  • I need to practice exhaustion more if I am going to do longer endurance events
  • Practice Drop Bags better
  • The cold has more of an effect on my than I am used to

Onwards to the next race.

Photo and Post Credit Brian Johnson & Julie Maxwell

Published by Maniacs Fanatics Madness

This is the blog site for the Marathon Maniacs, Half Fanatics and Ultra Madness running clubs

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